Labelled as Australia’s darkest day in cricket history since the infamous underarm delivery against New Zealand in 1981, Steve Smith and the Australian cricket team have well & truly tarnished the nation’s reputation.
In a test series that was already controversial enough, both South Africa and Australia were living dangerously in terms of behavioural actions both on & off the field. The incident in the second test between South Africa’s Quinton de Kock and Australian vice-captain David Warner made headlines that morning after some heated exchanges heading back to the changing rooms. That was followed by Proteas spearhead-Kagiso Rabada initially being ruled out of the third test in Cape Town due to suspension after he and Steve Smith collided after dismissing the Australian captain. Rabada’s celebration was seen as an opportunity to make body contact with Smith in another controversial moment of the series, leading to the suspension which was later overturned by the ICC. Two matches into the series, and things were already starting to boil over as tensions flared between two of the heavyweights of International cricket.
After a great start to their tour of South Africa with a win in the first test at Durban, it was that true-Aussie grit that got them over the line. A loss in second test soured proceedings as the de Kock-Warner feud headlined the match, but more importantly the Proteas hit back to level the series 1-1. Heading into the third test, the series was poised at a really interesting stage with both teams looking to get the upper hand heading into the fourth & final test in Johannesburg. It was going to take a momentous effort to bring down the Proteas at Cape Town, a venue that has been very-unkind to touring teams in the past. It didn’t help their cause that AB de Villiers was just about back to his destructive best in South Africa’s middle order, not to mention Kagiso Rabada being cleared to play which added further concerns after his dazzling performance with the ball in Port Elizabeth. Nevertheless, Australia weren’t short on firepower either with the likes of Warner, Smith, Starc, Cummins, Hazlewood & Lyon all featuring in the XI again.
This is where it gets ugly, very, very ugly. In what should have been a stunning spectacle for fans of both sides turned out to be anything but. The umpires picked up on Aussie opener Cameron Bancroft “suspiciously” dropping an unknown object into his trousers/underwear which immediately sparked controversy on the live telecast where the cameras had caught him. Umpires approached both Bancroft and Smith, and it was already evident that something fishy was going on. It was later discovered that the object was yellow tape which was used to pick up granules from the pitch to make it swing, which is classed as ball tampering. Right then and there, Cricket Australia’s reputation was shot to pieces and left to rot as the plot thickened when a press conference was held at the end of the days play.
The biggest bombshell to drop was that Steve Smith and the so called “leadership group” knew about this, the captain of Australia was now in the firing line of not only the Australian public, but the entire cricketing community all around the world. The news went global the following day as Australia were labelled a bunch of cheats as past greats for the country voiced their opinions of the disgraceful act that had been committed over in South Africa. Not only was Smith in the firing line for supporting such a low-act, the captain of Australia was being heavily-criticized for throwing one of his teammates (Cameron Bancroft) under the bus in the process. David Warner’s involvement in this could be equally as destructive for his future in Australian cricket as well, given he was the vice-captain it’s highly-likely that he knew exactly what was happening. At the press conference, both Steve Smith and Cameron Bancroft fronted up to the media in South Africa.
“We had a discussion during the break and I saw an opportunity to use some tape, get some granules from rough patches on the wicket to change the ball condition,” Bancroft said. “It didn’t work, the umpires didn’t change the ball.
“Once being sighted on the screen I panicked quite a lot and that resulted in me shoving (the tape) down my trousers.
“We have this yellow tape in our kit and it is connected to some padding but the sticky stuff is very sticky and I felt like it could be used to collect some stuff from the side of the pitch
“I’ll be honest with you, I was obviously nervous about it because with hundreds of cameras around that’s always the risk, isn’t it?
The 25-year-old Western Australian was clearly given instructions from either the leadership group or the coach, maybe even both. An exchange between Darren Lehmann and Peter Handscomb (12th man) via walkie-talkie seemed to occur which than appeared to be relayed from Handscomb to Bancroft on field. As a result of all this, Steve Smith and David Warner have lost the captaincy & vice-captaincy with Smith being banned for the fourth & final test in Johannesburg, it is also expected that Warner will take no part in the test as well. On top of that, both players could face a lengthy-period out of the side thanks to this little-debacle which has caused so much controversy in the past couple of days. Cricket Australia CEO James Sutherland has flown over to South Africa in an attempt to resolve the issue as quickly as possible, but it remains to be seen if Australian cricket will ever be the same again.
Australian wicketkeeper Tim Paine has been handed the captaincy ahead of the fourth test, while possible replacements for Warner & Smith are unknown at this point in time, even Cam Bancroft could be omitted due to his involvement in the saga.